Thursday, October 29, 2009

This week on foot

Powell gets ready to incorporate 'pedestrian scale' guidelines
Controversy over a proposed big-box retailer leads a Missouri suburb to adopt clearer requirements for pedestrian-friendly development.

Montgomery aims to improve pedestrian safety in parking lots
Startled by the number of pedestrian crashes in parking lots, a D.C.-area county works to improve parking lot safety.

Residents fight crossing closure
Residents of the UK city Wareham argue that eliminating the main pedestrian crossing over the town's rail line would split the community in half. Safety officials argue that keeping it in place would hurt pedestrians even more.

Experts have few answers about spike in train-pedestrian fatalities
Across the ocean, US officials struggle with similar problems.

K-rails are affecting pedestrians, kids
Glendale parents complain that barriers put in place to protect homes from mudslide damage interfere with walking routes to local schools.

Salute all cars kids. It's a rule in China
But at least their children don't have to salute every passing car.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Show your support for pedestrian-friendly changes to CEQA

For decades the California Environmental Quality Act has been making life difficult for pedestrians in the name of enviromental protection.

Hidden deep in the appendices of the CEQA Guidelines is a checklist intended to help jurisdictions decide which transportation impacts from new projects are "significant." The checklist provides a number of questions to consider, nearly all of them focused on vehicle flow, parking, and traffic congestion. Only at the end is there a suggestion that jurisdications should also, maybe, if they have the time and feel like it, consider impacts to "alternative transportation" (no explicit mention of pedestrians to be found).

Not surprisingly, the result has been years of environmental studies that go to great lengths to examine traffic conditions and provide solutions to project-induced congestion problems...while entirely ignoring--or even harming--pedestrians and other transportation modes.

Spurred on by agency staff and advocates in the Bay Area, the California Natural Resources Agency has proposed changes to the CEQA guidelines (available here) that incorporate alternative transportation modes more fully into environmental analysis. The proposed guidelines tone down the emphasis on driving and vehicle-focused performance measures, and instead encourage jursidictions to evaluate impacts to all aspects of the transportation system--including impacts to pedestrian facilites.

While this won't completely eliminate the anti-pedestrian bias in environmental documents (individual jurisdictions still adopt their own specific thresholds of significance, most of which are currently based on level of service for drivers), it is an important first step.

I encourage you to contact tothe California Resources Agency to show your support for these changes. The public comment period ends November 10. Comments should be sent to:

Christopher Calfee, Special Counsel
ATTN: CEQA Guidelines
California Resources Agency
1017 L Street, #2223
Sacramento, CA 95814
Facsimile: (916) 653-8102

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This week on foot

Amendment prohibits pedestrian harassment
The Columbia City, MO City Council passes an amendment to its municipal code making it a crime to honk at, shout at, or otherwise intimidate pedestrians. Violations could cost offenders as much as $1,000.

Go to the dark side with BMW night vision
BMW introduces a new night vision system that uses infrared cameras to detect pedestrians nearby and alert drivers to their location. The system is smart enough to pare down detection in pedestrian-heavy areas (so drivers aren't overwhelmed by alerts when driving next to crowded sidewalks) and to distinguish between pedestrians and animals on the side of the road.

Damaged bridge puts pedestrians at risk
Pedestrians in Lagos, Nigeria struggle to make it across a busy roadway after the street's pedestrian bridge was destroyed by a passing truck.

New high tech system could protect pedestrians
Software engineers in Israel are developing an in-vehicle video system that identifies pedestrians and alerts drivers to stop, or even applies the brakes.

SFPD and Health Department Announce Pedestrian Safety Campaign
San Francisco receives a $300,000 grant to fund efforts to improve pedestrian safety.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Space Wars

I don't like to get to down on the City of Ventura too much, because the city does sport some lovely pedestrian amenities like countdown pedestrian signals at major intersections and a very walkable downtown. Still...take a look at the sidewalk-bike-lane combo above.

Now, I concede that by providing sidewalks and striping bike lanes at all, the city clearly acknowledges the fact that bicyclists and pedestrians might (imagine it!) actually want to use the roadway network. This is more than many cities do.

However, lurking there in the background you'll see not two, not three, but four travel lanes for vehicles, and that's only in one direction. In fact, vehicles on this road (Victoria Avenue, in case you were wondering) luxuriate in a full 100 feet of roadway width compared to the 20 feet of sidewalk space that bikes and peds--and landscaping--must share.

Maybe I'm greedy, but it seems to me that the cars might be able to sacrifice a few of those feet for a bike lane and leave the sidewalk for the walkers. Oh, I know the argument: the cars NEED that roadway space to keep traffic flowing freely (nevermind that, despite driving that road at rush hour nearly every day, I have yet to see even the mildest traffic jam).

Ventura claims that its goal is to provide residents with, "more transportation choices by strengthening and balancing bicycle, pedestrian and transit connections in the City and surrounding region." Let's not sugarcoat things: a bike lane on a sidewalk next to an eight-lane road is not balance. It's putting vehicle travel ahead of other modes, and putting it so far ahead that the other modes don't have a chance to catch up. If Ventura--and any other city--wants to acheive balance, it needs to make real changes in the allocation of roadway space. I think Victoria Avenue would be a great place to start.

Friday, October 16, 2009

This week on foot

Muni hopes new decals will save passengers
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency slaps bright yellow stickers on the back of its streetcars to raise awareness about pedestrian safety issues.

Crossing to their own beat and Pedestrians Take Their Chances on NYC Streets
Authorities in New York and Boston struggle with issue of jaywalking.

Woman Collapses on Lagos Pedestrian Bridge

A 52-year-old woman dies in Lagos after attempting to climb the steep steps of a Nigerian pedestrian bridge.

Pasadena Moves a Step Closer toward Building Gold Line Station Pedestrian Bridge
The Pasadena City Council approves a contract to build a pedestrian bridge connecting the Gold Line's Sierra Madre Villa Station to the south side of the Foothill (210) Freeway. The bridge will allow pedestrians to access the station from both sides of the freeway.

Japan Helps Ha Noi, HCM City Move to Improve Pedestrian Safety

Eighteen new pedestrian bridges will be constructed in Viet Nam as part of the Ha Noi Urban Transport Development Project.

Public Buses in Cleveland to Issue Vocal Warning to Pedestrians

Following two pedestrian deaths in 2008. Cleveland's transit authority plans to replace it's current warning system (audible "beeps" when buses turn into a crosswalk) with a verbal warning "caution, bus turning, pedestrians look both ways, look both ways."